Saturday, January 24, 2009

The House at Pooh's Corner : A.A. Milne

House at Pooh Corner
By A.A. Milne, Illustrated by Ernest H. Shepard
(Facsimile Edition, Deluxe Edition)

Definitely a wonderful read, both for kids if you have them and for adults alike. And if you're reading aloud, it's fun to try to come up with the voices for the different characters. (Although my eeyore voice inexplicably came out with a southern accent)

I must say that after reading the original material and then watching a clip of the Disney Winnie the Pooh cartoon, I'm massively disappointed at the adaptation of the original to tv. One of the best aspects of the original source are Pooh's spontaneous poems. They're simple, yet absolutely charming and in general made me regret my general lack of knowledge of poetry.

The other aspect that I found rather interesting was that all of the characters have a distinctively unlikeable trait, including Pooh himself. All of them, bar none. And this is what actually makes them somewhat realistic personalities. I was actually reminded me of the TV show, the Office, where it is the personality flaws, that give the character their realism. Of course, unlike in the Office, Milne's point is not to skewer his characters and gives some, but not all, characters redeeming traits, like Pooh's poetry for example. However, I will say (and perhaps its my growing up in a time which prioritizes political correctness) that I was struck by some of Eeyore's, Owl's and Rabbit's insults. They straight-up said that others were stupid (which was not without merit).

I will mention one last thing. I rather liked the edition that I got from the library. It was the Facsimile Edition, where the text and illustration are a direct facsimile of the first edition, published in 1928. In addition, the bindings and blockings were recreated in the style of the first edition. Altogether, the book has a classic and elegant look to it, from cover to cover. I've provided some photos below:

All in all, this was a delightful book, which once I find myself in a more established time in life, I will probably purchase a copy for myself (and family).

Monday, January 19, 2009

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : Robert Pirsig

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
By Robert Pirsig

I could not finish this. The half-baked pseudo philosophical reasoning completely turned me off.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Agent Zigzag : Ben Macintyre

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal (Paperback
by Ben Macintyre

I really rather enjoyed this one. It describes the true story of a double-agent during World War I, Eddie Chapman, who began his career as a fairly successful thief and consummate liar.

At times, it's hard to believe that this isn't a fictional spy story, which is both praise and criticism of Macintyre. Certainly Macintyre's appreciation of Eddie's character helps make this book a fast read; however, it can at times be hard to shake the feeling that Macintyre got caught up in the Chapman's movie-like story.

That being said, it does sound like Chapman was a difficult personality to understand even for those around him in his time, so I will give Macintyre a good deal of credit.

I should say that it certainly helped that the book had pictures of Eddie Chapman, his handlers and other relevant historical photos, as well as other details, such as how the secret code systems worked, which really brought home the fact that this guy actually did some of the feats that we only see in movies these days.

Which gets to me to another point. I am more than a little bit surprised that Chapman's story has not been adopted by Hollywood yet. The book mentions that Terrence Young, the director of the very first James Bond movie, had met Edie Chapman and may have been influenced by him in his directing. However, the James Bond character is quite different than that of Chapman and because it actually happened, Chapman's story still rings quite remarkable.

Anyways, I wholly recommend giving this a read. In the very least, it should provide some better appreciation for the military and some of the things they have to think about in a war.